By David W. Shenk. Scottsdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1995. 403 pp. $16.95.
Assessing the influence of globalization dynamics on various aspects of contemporary culture and social institutions has become something of a growth industry among scholars and the framers of social policy. This book purports to provide "a comparative exploration of specific world religions, including several philosophical critiques of religion," with the ultimate aim of determining whether the global gods have done us in or whether they may yet be of some help in coping with the ills now confounding the world community. The author focuses on African traditional religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, Platonism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Enlightenment, and Marxism, treating each tradition in turn in a folksy and often anecdotal style.
Unfortunately, no coherent theory of global dynamics informs this effort, so that the author relies largely on the global village metaphor to explicate a vision of contemporary global processes. The upshot--quite unintentionally from the author's point of view--is to reduce religion to the status of a dependent variable. Thus, modernizing global dynamics are consistently portrayed as the dominant force in the contemporary world to which religions and ideologies must adjust willy-nilly. Most contemporary globalization theorists, by contrast, would insist that the relationship between religions and global processes ought to be conceived in a more reflexive manner.
The treatment accorded...